Greek blocking of Gaza flotilla rewarded with arms

In the middle of the economic crisis, Greece’s government budget is being slashed. After years of gigantic military spending, even the defence budget can no longer escape major cuts. Data on military expenditure, as released by peace research institute SIPRI, show that despite an eleven percent decrease since 2009, the military budget in 2010 was still higher than in 2007, the year before the economic crisis started.

With its spending now under surveillance from the European Union, Greece is more than happy to get a helping hand from its partners when it comes to military support. Earlier this month the US finally agreed to transfer 400 Abrams tanks and 700 M113 armoured vehicles to Greece, reportedly related to Greek assistance in the 2011 war to topple the Libyan dictator Muammar Khadafi.

 With arms trade so closely related to international politics such donations are not uncommon. Often the gesture is more symbolic. The supplier wanted to get rid of the weapons anyway and even selfish concerns can play a role. When everything has returned to normal the donor will be remembered for its kindness and be well positioned for potential new orders.

While the latter reason may have played a role as well, Israel’s recent arms donation to Greece appears to be an honest ‘thank you’ to Greece for its efforts in sabotaging the Gaza flotilla last year.

According to a fansite of the Greek armed forces Israel wanted “to express its gratitude to the HCG [Hellenic Coast Guard], which faces shortages of weapons, tools and technical support (spare parts) because of the economic crisis. The Greeks officials – to their credit – refused any offer in cash, but instead asked the Israelis, who insisted on expressing their gratitude, to provide some equipment. With rapid procedures they drafted a wish list and the Israelis began fulfilling the Greek requests”. According to Jane’s Defence Weekly that batch of arms and military equipment has been received now.

But of course rather than just a ‘thank you’, Israel has been cementing its ties with Greece since Turkish-Israeli (military) relations were largely frozen after Israel attacked the first Gaza flotilla in 2010. Those raids killed nine Turkish activists. Traditionally pro-Arab Greece – which officially recognised Israel only in 1991 – pledged to boost military cooperation with Israel during a visit of Defence Minister Ehud Brak to Athens in January this year. With this expression of gratitute Israel might have found another arms export market.

Photo: Israeli Coast Guard

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